Bridie Mulloy began collecting folklore, as a school teacher but her love if it began long before, perhaps as a child. She grew up in rural Sligo. As she recalls later on in life in her 1991 book Itchy Feet & Thirsty Work: A Guide to the History & Folklore of Ballinrobe, her early images of the Seanachai James Flynn;
Everybody listened, captivated no matter how far-fetched the stories were indeed the more far-fetched the better they went down. He’d sit on his favorite kitchen chair, shoulders hunched gazing into the glowing coals as if her was drawing inspiration from them. Though he seldom raised his voice above conversation level, he spoke with the same conviction as if he was following his characters, enjoying their adventures, reveling in their feasting and fearful disasters. So night after night the stories rolled our of fairy hijacking to Greece and Turkey, changeling children and magical music which lured inspection mortals into all kinds of trouble.
These early memories perhaps left a lasting impression on Bridie Mulloy, inspiring her to search for stories herself. She not only listened to his tales but studied the storyteller himself.
He would sit at the butt of a cock of hay chewing a trawneen (piece of straw) and enjoying the heat of the sun. In this leisurely wait e studied the gap in the mountains over which the fairy horse would leap, that night in his story. The ring fort would inspire tales of abduction where mortals were forced to join the fairy revels. A stone field in the distance was the scene of mighty battles between long dead men and intruders who came to disturb their peace. He accepted help from neighbors if work got a bit behind hand, while he dreamed up his stories. He knew they liked to do so and that they’d be in at night to enjoy his flights of fancy and the currant bread and tea which his wife and family would provide.
This early brush with a man who not only spoke in narrative, but shaped his stories by the flora and fauna, the landscape and its moods, must have prompted her to search for the ‘magic’ essence that made the storyteller a master of his art. As a result Bridie made her way around the counties of Sligo, Mayo and Waterford collecting local folklore during the thirties and forties. The fruits of her labour are contained in 21 manuscripts in the Irish Folklore Department in University College, Dublin. In her pursuit of the folktales and lore of days gone by she arrived on Achill in the forties when the last of the older generation were around to pass on their knowledge to the younger woman.
Destiny played her part too because Bridie Gunning would meet her future husband Tony Mulloy and her path would cross with that of the now elderly Emily Weddall.
Itchy Feet & Thirsty Work: A Guide to the History and Folklore of Ballinrobe. [Ballinrobe]: Lough Mask and Lough Carra Tourist Development Association, 1991.
In the early 1940’s Bridie Gunning arrived on Achill. Born in about 1919 in Ballindoon, Co. Sligo. As a pupil at Ballymote Vocational School, she first became interested in folklore. Her schoolgirl hobby became a career when she took it upon herself to collect the folklore of her home county Sligo, followed by Mayo and Waterford. As a result 21 of the manuscripts in the Irish Folklore Department in University College, Dublin, are the fruits of her labour.
In the 1930’s there was a national competition, inviting entrants (schoolteachers) to submit an example of their work to the National Folklore Commission, as a schoolteacher Bridie was perhaps one of the entrants, although there is no record of her entry. Nevertheless she was one of the biggest collectors of that era. To read more on the collection follow the link: http://www.ucd.ie/irishfolklore/en/schoolsfolklorescheme1937-38/
Bridie met and married Keel man, Tony Mulloy, whose family owned the Village Inn, in the village. Tony school teacher, was very knowledgeable in the folklore and stories of Achill. Perhaps it was where and how they met!
Special thanks to Croistoir at the National Folklore Collection at University College Dublin
Where: Pearse Museum
Saint Enda’s Park
Grange Rd, Haroldsgrange, Dublin 16
Maria Gillen will be giving a lecture on the fascinating life of Emily Weddall in the Pearse Museum on Tuesday, 1 November at 7pm.
Emily Weddall, nee Burke 1867-1952 was born in Edenderry, Co. Offaly to a Church of Ireland Minister and his wife. She trained as a nurse in Sir Patrick Dun’s Hospital, on qualifying she traveled to France Germany and Russia with her career. In the early 1900’s she married retired sea captain Edward Weddall, the couple settled on Achill in 1906. Around that time she co-founded the Lower Achill Branch of the Gaelic League, and became a regular correspondent, with An Claidheamh Soluis, of which Patrick Pearse was editor. It is through these circles that Emily first met the Pearse family.
Strongly influenced by the cultural revolution of the time, of which Patrick Pearse played a pivotal role in, she co-founded Scoil Acla, an Irish language and cultural school in 1910. Their paths would cross on many occasions, socially, culturally and politically, frequently causing controversy! After 1916 she remained friends with the family and during the struggle for Ireland’s independence, living at their former home at Cullenswood. She took the side of Mrs Pearse, in rejecting the Treaty.
Emily remained a lifelong Republican, her final resting place is in Glasnevin Cemetery in close proximity to the Republican Plot.
Admission is free – no booking required.